An extremely rare Empire quarter striking gilt bronze mounted glass plated skeleton clock of two to three months duration, the white enamel chapter ring with Arabic numerals and a fine pair of blued steel hands for the hours and minutes. The brass movement with knife edge suspension, pin wheel escapement, a five rod compensated pendulum with a single barrel for the going and fine adjustment to the crutch, with quarter striking sounding on two bells, with outside count wheel, the power for the strike take from the going barrel via a remontoire. The highly ornate glass plated case with sumptuous gilt bronze mounts surmounted by a foliate and floral spray above two pilasters flanking the dial, each headed by cast butterflies and issuing from foliate scrolls, the latter centred by a classical female figure with butterfly wings, representing one of the Horae, one of the mythological personifications of the Seasons, the removable figure obscuring the winding hole behind, her stiff-leaf lower body and the flanking foliate scrolls resting upon the backs of a pair of outward facing recumbent lions, on a stepped and shaped rectangular plinth with rounded corners and bun feet on a rectangular marble base
Paris, date circa 1810
Height 53 cm, width 37 cm, depth 14 cm.
This clock is very unusual since most other early nineteenth century glass plated skeleton clocks are far more simply decorated and rarely feature such elaborate gilt bronze mounts. In many instances the glass plate surrounding the cut-out chapter ring is left plain; some examples have limited bronze mounts (especially at the base to obscure damage), others may have been decorated with gilded brass fretwork, alternatively the glass plate may have been engraved or painted around the edges. It is therefore very rare to find a clock such as this with sumptuous fine quality gilt bronze mounts. Probably made to special order, the maker has even enhanced the clock's beauty by hiding the square winding hole behind the removable central winged figure below the dial.
It belongs to a series of Parisian Empire period skeleton clocks. All appear to have been made by the same maker but like them it bears no signature, although as Derek Roberts notes in "Continental and American Skeleton Clocks", 1990, p. 81, the name of Belliard à Paris has been found on one example. The example here is in keeping with other known glass plated skeleton clocks having a large great wheel and a cut-out dial centre. In keeping it also has a long duration, going two or possibly three months. Not all examples have strike work and only a limited number such as this one is quarter striking; interestingly the power for the striking in such clocks is taken from the going barrel via a remontoire, which then winds a subsidiary spring.
The decoration for the case is also particularly interesting. A number of Empire clocks and other decorative objects were adorned with butterflies relating to the ancient Greek and Roman symbolic representation of the soul. The butterfly also related to Cupid's lover Psyche, since the Greek word for Psyche can be translated as either butterfly or soul. Because of its different stages of metamorphosis the butterfly is also associated with resurrection or new birth. The figure below the clock dial also has butterfly wings and in this context is almost certainly one of the Horae, who in art were often represented with such wings. The Horae were one of the Greek and Roman mythological spirits who personified the Seasons. They were also the daughters and attendants of Aurora, goddess of the dawn and Luna, the moon goddess and later gave their name to the Hours, which they came to represent.